JUNEAU – Monday, members of the Alaska House Majority introduced new bills that would protect our ferries and chart a new course for the Alaska Marine Highway System.
House Bill 253, introduced by Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (D-Sitka) and several other lawmakers, would prevent the Alaska Department of Transportation from selling or disposing of a ferry without first obtaining the approval of lawmakers.
The proposal is important because it would help protect past investments into the AMHS by ensuring that significant public process occurs before any ferries are permanently taken out of commission.
“Many Alaskans share my concern that the Dunleavy Administration may dismantle the ferry system to the point that, like Humpty Dumpty, it cannot be put back together again,” Representative Kreiss-Tomkins said. “This legislation is co-sponsored by coastal legislators from across the state and is something of a mayday to help save our marine highway.”
Rep. Louise Stutes’ House Bill 249 would create the Alaska Marine Highway System Corporation. One of the primary reasons for the ongoing AMHS crisis is the lack of a long-term vision that incorporates the perspective of stakeholders across Coastal Alaska and maintains a high level of service at a reasonable cost.
“It’s very clear from ongoing maintenance and operational issues that the Alaska Marine Highway System currently does not have the capacity to make sound, long-term decisions for the future health of the system,” said Representative Stutes, a Kodiak Republican. “We must give the AMHS stability by pursuing management options that are not subject to the whims of a new administration every four years.”